Grinning Director Reduced to Sobbing Nobody

David Gritten writes a blog for the UK Telegraph, he wrote about the film season in Cannes, France.

“Strangest of all are market screenings, mainly for the benefit of distributors who might be interested in buying a film for their particular territory. Often these films are being seen for the first time. Sometimes only part of the film is shown. But the unnerving part of market screenings, held in small rooms, is the way people abruptly walk out – sometimes within five minutes – if they decide they’re not interested in buying.

Of course, this runs counter to conventional cinema etiquette; you rarely walk out of a movie unless you strongly dislike or disapprove of what you’re seeing.

But Cannes is a brutal marketplace, and these distributors are busy people. They don’t have time to waste being sentimental, sitting through a film they know isn’t for them. They may survey a dozen in a day. So it’s conceivable that a film can start with an audience of 15, all of whom will walk out within 20 minutes, leaving it playing to an empty room.

Film-makers are strongly advised not to attend market screenings; they can be crushing. Last year in Cannes I attended such a screening and sat next to a director who wore a broad, optimistic grin at the outset. Within 15 minutes tears had sprung to his eyes, as one distributor after another walked out. He looked utterly desolate, and every departure was announced by the sound of seats flipping up as they were vacated.

Yet by the end of that week, his film had sold into a dozen foreign territories, and he was reasonably content.

Still, it’s hard to think of a more blunt form of rejection: you spend two or three years of your life, crafting a film that is near and dear to you – and your first audiences won’t even give you 10 minutes of their time.

Who wouldn’t take it personally?